Green business travel trends and our new CO2 workspace

Carbon emissions workspace in Egencia Analytics Studio

By Caleb MacIlvaine, senior product marketing manager

There is an industry-wide trend towards corporate travel customers caring about sustainability. Travel managers are increasingly taking a leadership role in their organisations, setting environmentally conscious travel policies and making vendor and supplier selections based on sustainable practices. 

We’re committed to empowering our customers by giving them the resources to track and understand their carbon footprint. That’s why we’ve added a workspace to the Egencia Analytics Studio for visualising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that result from air travel and hotel stays.

Travel managers can now generate multi-dimensional dashboards about travel-related greenhouse gas emissions. These visual reports give travel managers insights that can empower them to support their organisation’s and employees’ environmental goals.

Although visualising complex data looks deceptively easy, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.

Measuring carbon footprints

A carbon footprint is a measurement of the release of carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels and related processes, such as manufacturing plastic. Travel managers can generate reports on total carbon emissions for a particular flight or in aggregate for an entire organisation. They can visualise carbon data related to travellers, travel groups, total ticket expense, mileage and travel segment, or generate reports that compare carbon footprints between hotels. These insights can help to support a business’ eco-friendly initiatives or provide support to comply with local regulations.

Figure 1: The carbon emissions workspace for hotels as shown in Analytics Studio, our platform’s reporting interface.

How Egencia delivers carbon footprint data for hotels 

How can we calculate your company’s carbon emissions based on flights and hotel bookings? We start with a formula developed by the UK’s Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and multiply travel distance and hotel nights by DEFRA-developed coefficients. Why use DEFRA?  Government regulators view measurements from DEFRA and allied organisations as the benchmark standards for estimating CO2 emissions from travel.

To illustrate the calculations, if you travel one kilometre alone in a small passenger car, each kilometre translates into 0.1276 kilograms of CO2. A thousand-kilometre drive releases 127 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere. The number is higher for a large car, lower if you share the car, and so on. Air travel is calculated in the same way.

Hotel carbon emissions are a bit more complicated to estimate. It’s not like there’s one motor running at a known rate of combustion. A hotel stay comprises a collection of activities, each of which can emit greenhouse gases. These include things like heating or cooling a hotel room, going up and down in a lift, taking a shower with hot water or eating at a hotel restaurant that uses electricity or natural gas to cook your food. Like the car scenario, the bigger the hotel room, the more CO2 that’s created.

Why CO2 emissions matter 

Corporations in the EU are required to report CO2 emissions that result from business travel. This requirement is part of paying carbon-based taxes and complying with EU laws aimed at reducing carbon emissions. The EU’s overall goal, based on the Paris Agreement, is for European companies to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. As part of a broader European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) that aims to help EU members to reduce their carbon footprint in a cost-effective way, Analytics Studio provides companies with the data that they need for regulatory reports.

Analytics Studio allows travel managers to devise programmes to support corporate travel that produces lower emissions. It can help a travel manager to measure and visualise carbon emissions data, which allows them to introduce innovations such as a more environmentally friendly air travel programme or a green-preferred hotel policy. For example, reports can highlight the top routes flown, and carbon emissions by distance and cabin class. Travel managers can identify the largest carbon emitters in a company’s travel programme. Alternatively, a travel programme could implement options in its policy that could help people to travel with a smaller carbon footprint. Analytics Studio gives travel managers the insights that they need to make these types of decisions.

Figure 2: Top ten sources of air travel carbon emissions by department, traveller and route.

This knowledge is essential for forming creative, business-positive ways of achieving an environmentally friendly travel programme.

Making decisions based on sustainable travel principles. Putting environmental principles into action requires accurate data. Trying to cut your business’ carbon footprint by demanding that people take fewer flights is ineffective. One flight might generate more CO2 than ten others combined. With the right data, presented in a meaningful format, executives can think about travel and sustainability in terms that make sense for a business’ unique situation and strategy.

We’re excited to make the carbon emissions workspace available for air travel and hotels, but this is really only the beginning of our efforts to help our customers to develop their sustainability strategies.